Vision scientists to date have employed a diversity of approaches in their quest to understand human vision. A new generation of imaging devices is now enabling scientists to study the structure and function of the living human retina at the cellular level. Unlike imaging of everyday objects, imaging of the retina is limited by imperfections in the cornea and lens at the front of the eye.
Adaptive optics, a technology originally developed for astronomical imaging from ground-based telescopes, allows the non-evasive visualization of single cells in the living human retina. These tools are revolutionising the imaging of some of the smallest human structures – the light sensing rod and cone photoreceptors that are part of the retina.
Photoreceptors, in particular, get a lot of attention from researchers because they’re the initial cells in the retina that make vision possible. Adaptive optics aims to improve detection, diagnosis, and management of eye disease. It is likely that these adaptive optics systems will play a major role in identifying and selecting patients for clinical trials and even measuring how the retina changes in response to an intervention.
In 2017, Fighting Blindness invested in a piece of technology that will serve to assist in developing critical clinical and research adaptive optics in Ireland, making us just a small handful of countries in the world with this technology.
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